Badlion’s Garage Synth for iPad and iPhone Review

by Ben on August 14, 2010

Badlion’s Garage Synth is a fun little music app that will have you wasting a lot of time playing around with all its sounds. It is a universal app so you only have to buy it once to have it on both your iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. It looks looks pretty awesome for a music app too. The whole screen lights up when you press one of the keys on the dual keyboard. It also has some great raw synths sounds, a respectable number of preset beats, and some interesting little samples/sound effects.

There are three main parts to the app: the keyboards, the samples, and the beats.

Keyboard

The keyboard is laid out in two octaves, and there is a selector on the left to choose between high, mid and low. As far as I can tell, it offers full polyphony so you can play multiple notes at the same time. Unfortunately, I do not believe this is a true synth in the way that you can adjust or change sounds via wavelength, oscillators, and all that other audiophile jargon. These are prerecorded sounds, probably made with a real synth, and cannot really be adjusted within the app. They sound cool and raw, but it would have been nice to have a little more control. The tilt feature on the right side makes the sound modulate all over the place as you tilt your device. This is neat, but will bring you completely out of tune and you can’t really get back to your starting point.

One of the coolest things about the app is that every time you hit a key, the whole thing lights up in that color. It makes it fun to play and is an enjoyable addition to the audio. There is also the option to turn the keys to a black and white mode, which subdues the entire app considerably, and is a nice option to have.

Beats

The drum tracks are located on the upper left side of the screen. There are 48 different beats, and they range in styles from some standard type stuff all the way to some really wacky sounds and rhythms. I really enjoy a lot of the beats, and it is part of what makes Badlion’s Garage Synth so fun to just pick up and start messing around with. You can change the tempo with a little slider for the different beats, but there is no bpm setting or indicator, so it is very difficult to set the tempo exactly if you had wanted to try that. You can also adjust the volume and turn the beats on and off with some controls on the left.

Samples

The included “samples” on the app can be played by hitting the a sample number that can be scrolled through in groups of four. There is no way to know what a sound is like until you it the button, and you’ll have to remember which is which for later on. The sounds range from chirps and blips to voices, car noises, screaming, and other strange sounds. I found only a few of them to be truly useful or fitting for music, with others being a bit more for novelty’s sake rather than anything else. You can loop these samples, which doesn’t work too well since they don’t sync with the beats. You can also adjust the volume with plus and minus buttons. Everything is very raw, which I think was part of what they wanted to do in creating the app.

Is it worth buying?

It’s a great little toy and a lot of fun to fool around with, but probably not super useful for hardcore music making. There is no way to tune to other instruments, and there is no recording feature or sound export either. Most of the things you’d produce with Badlion’s Garage Synth would not be very workable with other instruments added, but that is probably not its purpose anyway. It is very cheap at $0.99, and worth it to me as someone who likes fun sounds and can appreciate the visual appeal that goes along with the music.

Get it from iTunes here.

I recorded the video below to show some of the sounds and features of Badlion’s Garage Synth in action. Sorry it is a little blurry.

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